Marijuana Poll: What it Means for Sanders, Clinton, Trump, Bush and the Rest of the 2016 Field


Marijuana Majority recently released the group’s first poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, to question registered voters in Iowa and New Hampshire on whether the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. The poll found that strong majorities of Democrats, Republican and independents want Uncle Sam to stay out of states’ cannabis policies. While it might surprise some to find that a strong majority of Republican voters in the Hawkeye and Granite States want the federal government to respect the will of the voters who have passed medical and recreational marijuana laws, it really shouldn’t. States’ rights has long been a foundation of conservative and libertarian-minded GOP voters.

Earlier polls have had similar findings. A Pew Research Center survey in April 2013 found that 57% of Republicans nationwide wanted the feds to leave state marijuana laws alone. The Marijuana Majority commissioned poll likely signifies both that Iowa and New Hampshire voters are more independent-minded than many other states and that this is a continuing trend among all voters across all demographics. It makes sense that voters, regardless of affiliation, want the federal government to better prioritize resources when there are so many more important law enforcement and public safety issues facing our country.

When Marijuana Majority asked, “Do Iowans want the next president to respect state marijuana laws?” 71% of Iowa voters overall stated “Yes” comprising of 80% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans, and 70% of independents. When Granite State voters were asked the same question, the numbers were very similar: 73% overall, 77% of Dems, 67% of the GOP, and 76% among independents.

Marijuana law reformers are going to press the Democratic and Republican candidates on their cannabis policies in these early states very often. Bernie Sanders is likely to get the edge on the Democratic side as he has had the more progressive and bold platform on marijuana and the greater Drug War thus far. Hillary Clinton, as usual, has been very risk-averse, adhering to an outdated conventional wisdom on the issue and many haven’t forgotten the fact that she opposed marijuana decriminalization in her failed 2008 presidential run. While Sanders calls for an end to private prisons, the prison-industrial complex remains major donors to the Clinton Machine. Joe Biden, if he decides to enter the race, has a long history of being on the wrong side of Drug War history.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul will likely benefit from their marijuana policies. If I was advising Paul, I would encourage him to be true to his libertarian philosophy and come out strong in support of marijuana legalization; instead, he seems to be trying to portray himself as an establishment Republican, but that goes against his strengths, in my opinion and voters see through that. Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are hurt most by the states’ rights marijuana position of voters as each of them have pledged to waste federal resources by trampling the will of voters by using armed federal agents to raid, arrest, prosecute and imprison cannabis cultivators, providers and consumers.

Many people may shrug at these poll numbers and suggest that federal marijuana policy isn’t a big deal, but the candidates who don’t listen to voters will pay the political price. The proper utilization of federal resources is a huge deal to everyday American citizens, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck. Hard-working Americans don’t want their tax dollars being wasted and enforcing federal marijuana law over the will of over half the country’s population is certainly a waste.

The cannabis lobby is growing more powerful by the day, with more and more dollars to donate. More importantly, the cannabis community is, contrary to stereotypes, very engaged in politics as our livelihood and freedom is literally on the line. Poll after poll and election and election make it very clear: the American people are tired of marijuana prohibition and that out-of-step politicians adhering to a Reefer Madness mentality, will pay a political price.
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Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.